Heather Atkinson

Caucasian female wearing a white long sleeve sweater and violet scarf with her hands in the pockets of her gray slacks.

What are some of the ways in which you support first gen college students?

In my role as an academic adviser, I aim to be a resource right away where students can go if they have questions about their higher education experience. 

I am a 2.5-gen student, during my undergraduate experience I had lots of questions about college that my parents/family didn't have the answers to. (Actually, my younger family members learned from my experiences.) Once, I found mentors at my school, I was able to ask bigger questions and get the most out of my time in college. Unfortunately, finding those mentors took me until my junior year. 

What are some of the challenges that you see first-gen students face? How do they overcome those challenges (or manage the challenge if it cannot be overcome)?

Vocabulary. Higher education is full of new terms - names for departments (Bursar, Registrar, etc.), graduation requirements, university policies (late drop, withdrawal, etc.), acronyms (ETM, SAP, etc.) - there is a lot of vocabulary to know! Developing relationships with mentors - such as staff, academic advisers, instructors, and faculty - can help students have a comfortable space to ask questions. 

What strengths do first gen students possess? How have you seen that lead to their success in college and beyond?

Enthusiasm, strong work ethic, self-reflection, and awesome time management skills! The ability to prioritize tasks well and evaluate how a day or week has been going is so important. Students that are able to identify strengths and growth areas can adapt to find the most efficient use of study, work, co-curricular, and free time.

What advice would you give to first gen students?

Seek out multiple mentors and look to build strong relationships with them. Staff, instructors, and faculty on campus are eager to assist you as you find success in higher education. 2) There are many resources at your disposal, some you may not know about yet. 3) Take time to celebrate wins - Big and small!